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'We are coming for you,' eco-abusers warned as Chris Packham launches green legal group

Chris Packham has helped launch the new Wild Justice group
Chris Packham has helped launch the new Wild Justice group

“WE are coming for you.”

TV naturalist Chris Packham has sounded that warning to those abusing wildlife and habitat laws after helping to launch a trailblazing legal group.

The New Forest resident has teamed up with campaigners, doctors Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay, to form not-for-profit organisation Wild Justice.

It will work with lawyers across England and Scotland to pursue legal actions against public bodies it believes are failing to protect species or habitats. They will be funded by public donations and crowdfunding appeals.

Mr Packham said: “Our wildlife has been abused, has been suffering, exploited or destroyed by criminals for too long. Well, no longer. Wild Justice will at last be the voice of those victims and it will be heard… and justice will be served.

“Our simple premise is to work with the laws we’ve got to seek real justice for our wildlife, to reform, refine or renew those laws to ensure justice can be properly realised.

“[We are doing this] Because the wild needs justice more than ever before. The pressures wrought upon our wildlife have reached a crisis point and this is an essential response.

“The message is clear – if you are breaking the law, if the law is weak, if the law is flawed – we are coming for you. Peacefully, democratically and legally.”

Mr Packham (56) is known for his work presenting the children’s series The Really Wild Show from 1986 to 1995, and BBC nature series Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch since 2009. He lives in Colbury.

He caused an outcry just last month after claiming on BBC One’s Inside Out programme that the number of animals, such as ponies, cattle and donkeys, put out to graze on the Forest should be reduced to around 5,000 in line with the 1950s.

He said subsidies paid to commoners via the government-administered Basic Payment Scheme, and topped up for some by the local Verderers’ Payment Scheme, were partially to blame for encouraging ever-increasing numbers of animals that had left the Forest at “breaking point”.

But a number of local organisations lined up to criticise the show. The Commoners’ Defence Association labelled it an “unbalanced travesty” and the verderers questioned the figures.

This week Mr Packham lent his support to claims by some of the world’s leading scientists that plummeting insect numbers threaten the collapse of civilisation in the next century, and teamed up with Love Island contestant Jack Fincham for a new show promoting birdwatching.

Wild Justice stated the three directors will take no salary or payment from it except for their travel expenses.

It adds: “We are three friends who have worked together on campaigns and projects, but now we want to do something bigger together and that’s why Wild Justice exists.

“We’ve each got our separate jobs and activities outside Wild Justice – we don’t agree about everything, but we want to work together to make a difference for wildlife.”

An award-winning conservationist, Dr Tingay has studied birds of prey on five continents, with a particular research focus on endangered eagle species.

She is a former international director and past president of the Raptor Research Foundation, and since 2010 has campaigned against the illegal persecution of birds of prey in the UK.

Dr Avery is an author, blogger and environmental campaigner who worked for the RSPB for 25 years and was its conservation director for nearly 13.

He is no stranger to taking legal environmental action. He was behind the 2016 petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting that attracted 123,000 signatures of support and was debated in Parliament, and last year mounted two formal legal challenges to Natural England decisions.

The three directors have held discussions with various lawyers, it said, and have found someone to act on its behalf for “very low fees”.

Wild Justice has not been set up as a charity because doing so would limit some activities – such as campaigning against government policies – and a not-for-profit company spends the money it raises on its own aims.

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